Kids pay the price for arson attacks

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A night of mayhem in Shefford ended with more than £25,000 worth of damage to a new play area.

Gangs of more than 50 youths wandered around the town on Friday night leaving a trail of broken glass and windows, with police called out to a noisy party.

And early on Saturday morning, toilet rolls were used to set a fire under new play equipment at Churchill Way, destroying the multi-activity installation and the surrounding area.

The play equipment had only been opened in May but is now closed off for safety reasons.

Shefford Mayor Cllr Paul Mackin said more than £50,000 worth of damage had been done to play equipment in the town over the past three years.

CCTV footage from one play area showed a youth trying to set fire to an aerosol can before an attack on equipment.

“It’s a sad old situation,” he said. “I went to the council offices on Saturday morning and thought, do I really want to do this any more, it’s disheartening.”

He said the gangs are usually around 13-15 years old.

“They are getting to be out of control, many of the parents don’t give a toss. They need to be reined in because it is only going to get worse.”

He said gangs of 20/30 youngsters regularly wander round parts of the town at night.

“It’s an increasing problem that we need to get hold of,” he said.

He explained the town had a Street Watch system where residents patrolled certain areas but that more members were needed.

The Churchill Way play area was reopened at the end of May following a revamp (along with two other playgrounds in Shefford) where a multi-activity installation was built.

The refurbishment of the parks’ equipment had been paid for using section 106 money from local developers and the equipment is owned by Central Beds Council which worked with the town council on the refurbishments.

A police spokesman said: “We were alerted by the fire service to a suspicious fire in a playground in Churchill Way, Shefford, at around 7.15am on Saturday.

“Reports described a group of seven youths dressed in dark clothing setting light to play equipment before making off towards woods nearby.

“Police have carried out a number of enquiries and are appealing for anyone who witnessed the incident, or has any information, to contact them on 101.”